3 Hybrid Workforce Variations: Choosing the One That’s Right for You

Many use hybrid as an umbrella term to indicate a mix of remote and in-office employees. They also use the term blended employees. These are employees who work in-office some of the time and remotely the rest of the time. This group of employees is distinct from those who work full-time in the office and those who are full-time remote. (Note: Full-time remote employees sometimes meet with other employees for team retreats or other special events during the year. But they do not go into the office to do their usual work for any meaningful amount of time.)

There are three hybrid workforce variations to consider as an employer. Each variation has advantages and challenges.

General Challenges with Blended or Remote Employees

There are two general challenges with any of the hybrid workforce variations that are important to address, including:

  • Biases | Remote employees are likely to be disadvantaged by being “out of sight” more frequently. It requires more work to create trust and belonging with and among remote workers. Leaders who are in-person may inadvertently give more attention and perks to employees they see in person. Meanwhile, remote employees may be less likely to speak up or question decisions.
  • Equity | Employees who work remotely more of the time may be in less equitable work situations than their in-office counterparts. Their Internet service may be relatively slow and their workstations may cause pain or discomfort. Additionally, their immediate working environments may be more distracting (e.g., noise, light, temperature), and they probably won’t have access to free office supplies (e.g., printers, a dedicated work phone, etc.).

Here are examples of three hybrid workforce variations.

Hybrid 1: Full-Time Mix

One of the hybrid workforce variations is a mix of employees being either full-time in-office or full-time remote. This variation requires enough office space for all full-time employees.

  • Advantages:
    • It’s easy to know where each employee is on a given day or week.
    • Working groups/teams can develop communication and collaboration patterns for this stable configuration.
    • You need less office space when some employees are remote.
  • Challenges:
    • Communication | To the extent that working groups contain both types of employees—or remote only employees—clear and concise communication is critical. You want attendees to be able to pull out the important points of communication quickly and easily. Social time and hard conversations should definitely happen over video.
    • Collaboration | If everyone who is collaborating on a given project is in the office, there aren’t any special hybrid challenges. However, when collaboration happens among individuals who are not co-located, care should be taken to implement best practices for that situation: Use the appropriate communication channels or apps (e.g., collaborative real-time whiteboards that live in the cloud, Slack channels, polls for voting). Trust among team members is important and needs to be built and maintained. Respectful behavior is even more critical.
    • Biases | All of the general challenges above are true with this variation. In-office employees may develop deeper bonds. Thus, they may unintentionally marginalize remote employees.

Hybrid 2: Come Together

Another hybrid variation is when employees spend some time in-office and sometimes remotely. Also, they do so in a concerted way at regular intervals, so that every working group is in-office together and remote together. Everyone in the group is a blended employee. For instance, a given working group may be in the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays and work remotely the other days of the week. (Or one week in the office each month, etc.)

  • Advantages:
    • Organizations require less office space when different working groups use the office on different days.
    • All working group members experience similar working conditions at the same time. So the problem of remote workers becoming disadvantaged isn’t an issue.
    • In-office time can focus on collaboration, team-building, trust-building and engagement. Remote time can be for focused individual work.
  • Challenges:
    • Communication | Best practices for communication hold. When working group members are remote, it’s particularly important.
    • Collaboration | Time in office should be for work best done collaboratively or using resources that are in office.
    • Bias | In-office time helps create and deepen belonging and trust (when the culture and the leaders promote those qualities). In turn when employees are remote they are more likely to give colleagues the benefit of the doubt. Because all working group members have the same in-person/remote schedule, differential treatment based on in-office status is non-existent.

Hybrid 3: Employee Flex Plan

Finally, sometimes employees are blended, full-time in an office, and/or full-time remote. For some hybrid workforce variations such as this one, you can set times when everyone—or most everyone—is expected to be in office, such as collaborating on projects.

  • Advantages
    • This variation provides more flexibility to employees, hopefully minimizing attrition and making hiring easier.
    • The schedule provides working groups and organizations predictability. It also gives them the ability to make maximal use of their in-office space. There may be some opportunities to take advantage of co-location, but the people who need to collaborate on a given day may not necessarily be in the office at the same time.
    • To the extent that all or most employees come into the office at least some of the time, a sense of culture, trust, and engagement can develop. However, this doesn’t necessarily include teammates who may be on a different in-person schedule.
    • Blended employees may welcome more flexibility and control over their commuting schedules.
  • Challenges
    • Communication | Although there is a predictable pattern to who is in the office on a given day, the pattern differs for each employee. Therefore, it can be hard to track in-office employees day-to-day. In turn, this doesn’t capitalize on many of the return-to-office advantages. Because working groups may not be co-located together, communicate clearly and concisely. Best practices for communication hold.
    • Collaboration | This variation does not help in-office collaboration unless relevant employees are co-located at the same time. Thus, best practices for collaborating with mixed co-located/remote groups hold.
    • Biases | Those who spend more time in-office develop deeper connections and trust and may be more likely to receive high-status assignments compared to remote workers.

#WorkTrends: Beating Your Bias

Yassmin Abdel-Magied says she changed the appearance of her headscarf one day and noticed that people on the street began to look at her differently. This experience with the power of unconscious bias was the basis for Abdel-Magied’s moving TED Talk, and it’s one of many moments that she says led her on the path to becoming a writer, broadcaster and activist.

Abdel-Magied joined us from London to discuss one of the most important conversations happening in HR right now: bias. We dug in deep for a candid discussion about the state of inclusion right now — and the hard work all of us can do to make things better.

Listen to the full conversation or read the recap below. Subscribe so you never miss an episode.

How the Conversation Around Bias Has Changed

Abdel-Magied says she’s seen the conversation around bias change significantly throughout her career, and especially in the past five years. One of the most significant changes around how we talk about bias, she says, is the emphasis that organizations have put on combating unconscious bias. “Cognitive and implicit bias had been talked about in the academic circles for a while, but this was the first time the subject had come into the corporate space,” she says.

However, Abdel-Magied says organizations aren’t going far enough, with too many believing that having a single conversation on the topic is enough. “People are thinking that a little bit of unconscious bias training is going to fix all of our problems,” she says. “[It] is a little bit of a problem.”

Why Tech Won’t Fix Bias

Abdel-Magied says her frustration with the conversation around bias also extends to technological offerings that organizations have been embracing. Many organizations have embraced AI solutions to help with hiring and management practices, hoping that they can eliminate bias in their processes. She says this is a false promise. “Nothing is a silver bullet,” she says. “You’re not going to fix the issue of diversity and inclusion by building an app.”

To truly tackle the issue of bias in the workplace, she says, those within organizations need to understand that their workplace is a reflection of society. People need to have honest conversations with each other and dig deep within themselves to confront their biases. It’s “hard work,” Abdel-Magied says, but without the effort, true change isn’t attainable.

What Leaders Can Do

Abdel-Magied says there are two ways leaders can better prepare themselves to fight bias.

First, leaders need to make sure they’re identifying and confronting their own biases and prejudices. Abdel-Magied suggests jump-starting this effort by reading. “Start to make yourself uncomfortable by reading things outside your general area,” she says. Two books she recommends are “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge and “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo.

Second, leaders need to seek out ways that bias has seeped into their workplace. Abdel-Magied says a very actionable place to start is an organization’s shortlist for promotions. “When you have two women on the shortlist, you are 79 times more likely to hire a woman — simply because when you only have one woman on the shortlist you’re only focusing on the fact that she’s a woman,” she says.

Abdel-Magied also suggests making sure your organization’s diversity and inclusion department has real muscle. This means beefing up its budget and responsibilities, and ensuring that diversity and inclusion is a viable path for those in HR. “If it’s not something you’re putting any resources behind, have a look at all those different aspects and do a bit of work on yourself,” she says. “I think then you’ve got a good start.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

The Truth About Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Inequality takes many forms and manifests in numerous manners. However, what does unconscious bias do to our workplaces? As women, we deal with more in the workplace than our male counterparts, including unconscious bias. Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their conscious awareness. Unconscious bias happens outside of our control. It occurs automatically and is triggered by our brain making a quick judgment. Whether we realize it or not, an unconscious bias thrives in our society. Women are still discriminated against professionally, whether it is directly through compensation or indirectly through the way we are treated or spoken to. This bias worsens as we climb the ladder. Each of us maintains unconscious beliefs about various social & identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize a social world by categorizing. Unconscious bias can be more prevalent than we realize and it can also be more difficult to free workplaces of. Unconscious bias is more predominant than conscious prejudice.

Unconscious Bias in Hiring and Promotions

If left unchecked, unconscious bias can thrive in hiring, promotions, and in feedback. It is important to hire a diverse workforce to be competitive. However, an unconscious bias works against this and keeps women from being equal, successful, and economically stable. HR professionals must combat unconscious bias in hiring and it is important for employers to maintain policies that are supportive of equality. Examples of such include telecommuting options, flexible hours, and family leave. Each of these policies make for a happier, more productive workforce. It is also beneficial to work with groups who can help can get diversity into the workforce. In addition, educating your employees about implicit biases will help them to scrutinize their own behaviors and be more mindful. It is also important to define requirements for a position carefully because women will not apply unless they meet 100 percent of them. Organizations should define which requirements are mandatory and which ones are not. When advertising for a position, choose words carefully because some will work against bringing candidates in. Gender neutral environments also are important in attracting candidates. When considering an employee for a promotion, it is important not to consider external factors or those that are not related to how an employee performs their job functions. Whether this is done purposely or by an implicit assumption, it is a discriminatory behavior. Implicit bias based on the idea that an employee can perform their job properly. For example, an employer should not assume that a female employee would not be interested in a promotion solely because she is pregnant. This implicit assumption is based on the notion that women are not capable of working and having a family or that women should be limited to only one. It is ideas like these keep women back professionally and economically. They also contribute to gender inequality whether we realize it or not.

Unconscious Bias in Feedback

There is also research that states men and women are assessed differently in the workplace. Male and female managers may critique women more harshly for being aggressive. Their accomplishments are more likely to be viewed as a team effort rather than their individual one. These differences are products of an unconscious bias, which influence our workplaces. If managers expect women to be team-oriented and men to be independent, women may be pushed into supporting roles rather than the core positions that lead to executive jobs. When these stereotypes are internalized over time they can sap up some of the women’s confidence that they or their female co-workers can handle more demanding positions. Whether we realize it or not, stereotypes shape our perceptions of capability. Women are held to a higher standard within evaluations and we hold ourselves to a higher standard as well. Hidden biases such as these can cumulatively damage a woman’s career over time. This results in a decreased access to leadership positions, stretch assignments, advancement, and pay.

Combatting Gender Bias

It is important to raise awareness to combat issues such as these. They pervade within our cultural and social norms. Employers also must ensure that they employ specific criteria in hiring, promotions, and giving feedback to their employees. Employers can also take a proactive approach by learning from each other in how they conduct their performance reviews, advertise for new positions, or decide on a process for promotions. It is important to be thorough, fair, and transparent within each process. By maintaining this approach throughout the employment process, women have a better chance at achieving professional and economic success. As a society, we must continue to work together towards the common goal of achieving parity by raising awareness and challenging our norms.

How Does It Affect Our Workplaces?

Unconscious causes us to make decisions in favor of group versus another. If women face unconscious bias it is easy to see how aspects in the workplace can favor men. Studies have shown that it affects hiring decisions, salaries, and ultimately, career advantages. Women face enough challenges in the workforce and unconscious bias, ultimately, is just another source of stress and pressure.

How is unconscious bias different from blatant discrimination? Research in social psychology shows that people are able to control their unconscious biases. However, HR professionals also can help organizations uncover and combat unconscious bias and its effects in the workplace by:

  • Providing awareness training
  • Creating structures
  • Labeling the types of bias that are likely to occur.

Unconscious bias, if left unchecked, can turn to discrimination. We all have unconscious biases and by providing awareness training, employees are given the opportunity to learn more about it. It also teaches them how recognize them and how to combat them in daily decision-making. Awareness training can also create an organizational conversation about what biases exist within the company and what steps the company can take towards minimizing them. Labeling them is also important because it brings them to the forefront and the conscious level, leaders and employees will have an increased level of awareness and how it affects decision-making processes, hiring, promotions, compensation, and organizational culture. Creating structures allows for more deliberative actions and provide opportunities to point out ways for peers to point out ways bias may be seeping in.

So, what happens when organizations are not successful in preventing unconscious bias? What structures are in place to prevent discrimination in the workplace? 

Legal Protections

The pay gap affects not just women but our families and the economy as well. This adds up to lost wages, a reduction in pensions, and decreased Social Security benefits. Under the Equal Pay Act, men and women must be paid equal wages if they perform equal work. What some may or may not realize is that Equal Pay is applicable to more than just a paycheck. The Equal Pay Act also requires employers to provide their employees whose job functions require equal skill, effort, and responsibility and are performed under the comparable working conditions an equal salary, bonuses, overtime pay, stock options, profit sharing and similar packages, life insurance, holiday and vacation pay, any specific allowances or reimbursement for travel accommodations and expenses. Unequal compensation is not legal unless the employer can demonstrate that the pay differential is based upon a fair seniority, incentive system, or merit. It must be a factor other than gender.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act your employer may not discriminate against you based on your race, gender, religion, or national origin within any conditions or terms of your employment, including benefits, compensation, and hours. Title VII also prohibits pay discrimination that results from unfairly denying women promotions or other forms of discrimination that can impact pay. Both the Equal Pay Act and Title VII are enforced by the EEOC.

The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act clarifies that each paycheck providing discriminatory compensation is a basis to file a claim under Title VII irrespective of when the discrimination began. This law allows 180 days after the most recent paycheck that reflects unequal wages to file a charge with the EEOC.

Discriminatory behavior, whether it is subtle or not, is how inequality manifests. Unconscious bias is one way in which discriminatory behavior manifests and holds women back professionally and economically.

It is up to our HR professionals and workplaces to continue to combat unconscious bias by providing training, enforcing policies, and creating structures and classifications that can allow level play fields and keep unconscious bias from pervading our workplaces and organizations.

A version of this post was first published on

Hiring Without Bias 3 Steps Your Company Needs to Take

With the relentless media focus on the subject of diversity, you may think that bias in the hiring process is a well-controlled issue.

It’s not!

In fact, one of the biggest challenges and most frequent missteps of recruiters, hiring manager and companies is overlooking fair and impartial hiring practices, at every level of employment and for every type of position.

Overcoming these inclinations starts at the top, with a change of corporate culture. Once leadership recognizing that unconscious biases affect all decisions making, they can begin to improve their hiring practices with these three vital steps .


It’s human nature to make unconscious judgments based on personal values and predispositions. That’s why every staff member must acknowledge that bias in the workplace is real. After all, it is an offensive and risky practice, and in most cases, it is unintentionally carried out by good people.

Why does this unfairness exist in the workplace? For a number of reasons.

One cause is insecurity. Often, those in a position to carry out the hiring function feel threatened by a job candidate–perhaps concerned that he/she is smarter, better looking or even more well-connected.

Another possible motive for bias is perceived fit: the decision maker sometimes subconsciously select employees of a similar color, age, gender or background.

Sometimes, previous experiences lead to biased hiring decisions. For example, the belief that extroverts always make the best sales representatives or that long commutes breed excessive absenteeism are not factual, just anecdotal. (In fact, many people benefit from their long commute, using the time to relax, read or meditate.)

Finally, there may be cultural stereotypes that drive hiring decisions; deep seated negativity regarding numerous factors, including race, religion, sexual preference, and physical appearance.

Thankfully, there are tools to measures attitudes that team members may be unwilling or unable to recognize. One popular test is called The IAT (Implicit Association Test.) This online tool, developed by Harvard University, has been used to assess unconscious bias in the military health, education, law enforcement, fortune 500s and the media. Recognizing these inclinations (which are not only company-wide but society-wide) is necessary to establish organization-wide “buy-in” before developing fair hiring solutions.


Every company needs a formal process to address unfair hiring practices (not to mention overall bias in the workplace.) Many firms develop their own framework for educating their employees. Others prefer to sign on with one of the many vendors who offer subscription-based programs, online modules or in-person training programs to help companies lower their risk of hiring bias.

Most importantly, an effective training must provide a thoughtful strategic approach to hiring people in underrepresented groups. The most robust systems appraise and address every aspect of hiring, from the job posting, to the evaluation of resumes, to interviewing and even the negotiation/onboarding process.

Another important subject to be covered in a training program is comprehensive federal and local employment law, especially as it relates to biased hiring practices.

Moving past individual training, a training program should provide team-based hiring strategies complete with checks and balances that protect the organization from litigation. Structured criteria should include a resume screening process, pre-approved interview questions and a panel approach to assessing candidates in a fair, unbiased way.


Like other functions in the workplace, hiring should be audited and improved continuously– not a once-and-done initiative, but an ongoing mission. By reviewing hiring metrics, HR can continually evaluate and raise their standards to ensure ongoing fairness and in the hiring process. Overlooking this vital step will eventually lead to the hiring of less qualified candidates. And this can mean trouble to the bottom line. After all, in an increasingly competitive marketplace, where talent breeds profit, drawing from a balanced workforce is vital to success!

photo credit: number 3 via photopin (license)